The handler of legal complaints in England and Wales is showing tentative signs of improved performance. Data on timeliness, published this week by the Legal Ombudsman, show the organisation steadily improved through the second half of 2018.
By December, 45% of all legal cases concluded within 90 days, with 62% concluding within 180 days and 91% within a year.
Back in April, just 11% of cases were finished within 90 days – well below the ombudsman’s own target of 26%.
The ombudsman still falls short of its target to complete 72% of cases within 180 days, but has improved since April when the proportion was just 46%.
Timeliness has been a constant problem for the organisation, with complainants warning last month that it may take six months for their case to even be opened.
In its 2017/18 annual report, LeO admitted it would revise down its performance targets to set a ‘more balanced suite’ with ‘stretching, but realistic, objectives’.
The six-month warning has now been removed from the ombudsman's website, and the Gazettte understands the majority of investigations now begin within two to three months of receiving the complaint from a member of the public.
In new guidance published on the ombudsman’s website, users are told the majority of investigations are now settled within six months.
The guidance adds: ‘A historical backlog has affected a small minority of cases where people have experienced an unusually long wait for investigation. People in this group receive regular updates on timescales for their individual cases from our team.’
Some of the improved performance may be due to the introduction of a new cases management system last April. Cases defined as low complexity have benefited the most from this change, with 84% of them now resolved within 90 days.
At the meeting of the Office for Legal Complaints last month, chief executive Rob Powell said timeliness was still ‘within tolerance’, adding that plans were now in place to ‘mitigate the delay experienced by customers who approached LeO pre-modernisation and will ensure, where possible, that those historic cases are progressed to closure before the end of the financial year’.